From the August 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

What happens when you accidentally let your domain name expire? A drop- catcher swoops in, buying the name to resell it or use it for a website loaded with advertisements.

"This [trend] has been growing over the past few years as the number of registries has been increasing," says Jay Westerdal, CEO of Name Intelligence Inc., a Bellevue, Washington, company that tracks the industry.

So how can you ensure you don't become a victim? We asked Warren Adelman, president and COO of Scottsdale, Arizona-based domain registrar The Go Daddy Group Inc., for his best tips.

1. Keep your contact information up-to-date. "We or other registries let you know [via e-mail or direct mail] that your domain is going to expire," says Adelman. "So make sure your contact information is up-to-date." Adelman also says registrars typically give users a grace period after their registration is up--at GoDaddy.comit's 41 days--to renew their names. But even if a name expires and goes into an auc-tion, "We don't reassign it until 30 days go by," Adelman says. "That gives a customer the opportunity to say 'Hey, I meant to renew it.'"

2. Don't use a free e-mail account. "People often do this, and it's not an e-mail contact they necessarily use all the time," Adelman says. "If you don't access a free e-mail account in 30 days, it goes away."

3. Take advantage of auto renew. Most registries offer this service, which allows registrants who buy a domain name for a year to auto renew it with a credit card. Adelman adds that you should make sure your payment information is current.

4. Register your domain name for more than one year. In most cases, your costs will go down if you register your domain name for multiple years.

Melissa Campanelli is a marketing and technology writer in New York City.